As I traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to take in the MSI’s Master Overclocking Arena Grand Final, my mind was filled with questions. What kind of speeds would be achieved this weekend? Would there be any glimpses of upcoming hardware? Would my luggage follow me all the way to Taipei or remain back in San Francisco? Would I have a chance to rub shoulders with Darth Vader? The answers may surprise you.
Journalists and overclockers shared the same hotel and transportation, and we entered the hall that hosted the event together. As we arrived, the Stars Wars theme song started blaring, and MSI employees were lined up applauding everyone who entered. If making an entrance like that doesn’t put a smile on your face, that says a lot more about you than about MSI… or George Lucas’ most beloved franchise.
For whatever reason, the event had a Stars Wars theme throughout. There were fully dressed stormtroopers wandering around, various Princess Leias, R2-D2, and a very credible Darth Vader. In addition, light sabers figured heavily into the décor of the halljust ask one of my fellow journalists, who stumbled backward and was nearly impaled on one.
As if the ambiance wasn’t enough, MSI also provided live entertainment. This took the form of Stars Wars dancing. No, not Star Wars and dancing. Star Wars dancing. Describing the scene wouldn’t do it justice, so I invite you to watch the video below, if there is any part of you that has always wanted to see a stormtrooper bust a move.
After taking a few minutes to digest what I had just seen, I left to wander the event and check out the various booths populated by MSI partners like Intel, Kingston, Nvidia, and Western Digital. None of those firms were showing products we haven’t seen before, as is common for events like this. Exotic prototypes and pre-production hotness is usually reserved for major trade shows.
That said, I did spend some extra time at Nvidia’s booth taking in a 3D racing game on a triple-monitor setup. After donning the stereoscopic glasses, I took the car for a spin, running it off the road and into a light post pretty much immediatelyjust a typical day behind the wheel for me. Once I had given the light post a fake phone number and phony insurance information, I was back on the road. The game was so immersive, it took several minutes of annoyed stares and overly loud sighs before I surrendered my place behind the wheel.
While I was occupied playing games and taking in the stormtroopers’ sweet moves, competitors were busy assembling and tuning their rigs. To no one’s surprise, the impressive collection of hardware provided to the teams by MSI and its partners included top-shelf MSI motherboards and graphics cards. Here’s the full list of components available to the teams, which were allowed to bring their own coolers.
- Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition CPU
- MSI Big Bang-X Power motherboard
- MSI N480GTX Lightning graphics card
- Kingston KHX2250C9D3T1FK3/6GX memory kit
- Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB hard drive
- Enermax ERV1050EWT 1050W power supply
- Enermax Acrylux KB009 keyboard
20 teams were present at the event, three of which hailed from the U.S. The others came from all corners of the globe, including several from Europe, Asia, South America, and even one team from the Middle East.
Apart from the Star Wars novelties, MSI’s overclocking event played out much like others we’ve attended. Teams were given 2.5 hours to build up their systems and another 2.5 hours to overclock the CPUs. During this first phase, the Super PI 32M benchmark was used to gauge performance. After submitting final scores, teams were then given 3.5 hours to overclock their systems’ graphics cards. To test performance in the graphics overclocking segment of the competition, 3DMark Vantage was used with the “performance” preset.
Hours of trial-and-error fiddling with BIOS options and overclocking software isn’t the most exciting thing to watch as a spectator, so after spending some time peeking over shoulders, I turned my attention to the massive supply of liquid nitrogen that teams were using to chill their systems. This lifeblood of the extreme overclocking community was available to all the teams taking part in the event, and it made for some mighty frosty hardware.
As with all great things involving Red Bull and canisters of liquid nitrogen, the competition eventually drew to a close. The final standings were determined by performance in both phases of the competition, with CPU overclocking making up 40% of the final tally, and graphics overclocking taking the remaining 60%. “The Expandables” took the top prize: the entire system they used for the event in addition to $3,000.
Made up of Swedish overclockers Elmor and ME4ME, the winning team pulled off a Super Pi 32M time of 6 minutes and 35.8 seconds by clocking their Core i7-980X up to 5.32GHz. They also pushed their GeForce GTX 480 GPU to 1,425MHz, over twice its stock speed, for an overall 3DMark Vantage score of P37424. “Team XtremeLabs.org” from the Ukraine took second place, and “Team ASD crew” from Poland captured third.
You can check out the full scoreboard here at the official Master Overclocking Arena website.
All in all, it was a interesting day in Taipei. If you get enough caffeine, liquid nitrogen, and Stars Wars characters in one place, a good time is pretty much inevitable.